Rhetorical Analysis Essay.
The purpose of your rhetorical analysis is to analyze another writer’s argument. Of course, your essay should address what the writer has written, but the emphasis of
your rhetorical analysis essay should be a close examination of how the writer has presented an argument. Your purpose is not to argue with (or state your agreement
with) the writer’s position. Your primary purpose is to analyze the strategies and features another writer has used to be persuasive. You may interweave your own
commentary and opinion with your analysis to evaluate how effectively (or ineffectively) the argument is rhetorically. But do not be diverted from your primary task:
to demonstrate that you have uncovered interesting, important things about the way the author’s argument has been presented.
What Should Be Analyzed?
Listed below are the sorts of things your rhetorical analysis should consider. This list is neither a checklist nor an outline, and not every question will apply to
• Purpose (What is the writer trying to accomplish with the essay?)
• Audience (To whom does the writer try to appeal? How does the writer try to
connect with that audience?)
• Organization (How has the writer structured and presented the argument?)
• Nods to the Opposition (How does the writer anticipate and address arguments
that might be made against his/her position?)
• Definition (How does the writer define key terms used in the argument?)
• Examples (What sort of examples/analogies does the writer use as evidence?)
• Appeals to Authority (How does the writer use other sources, experts, statistics, etc.?)
• Ethos (How does the writer present him/herself to the reader?)
• Logos (How does the writer appeal to the reader’s sense of logical reasoning?)
• Pathos (How does the writer appeal to the reader’s emotions, beliefs, and values?)
• Tone (What is the writer’s attitude towards the subject?)
• Diction and Imagery (What are the effects of the writer’s word choices?)
Organizing Your Essay
Somewhere near the opening of your essay, identify the author and article under consideration and offer a description of the controversy with which the article is
concerned. You should also summarize the article you have chosen to analyze. Be sure to clearly and fairly articulate its thesis. An introduction should engage your
reader, so find something interesting to say about what interests you about the article or the issue under consideration. Make clear what you think most significant
about the rhetorical strategies the author has used in the essay.
Organizing your analysis around the sequential organization of the essay being analyzed (“In paragraph one, the writer . . . . In paragraph two, . . . .”) is one
possibility, though such an organizational pattern can become tedious. Since the purpose of your analysis is to analyze another writer’s rhetorical strategies,
another way to organize your essay is to highlight those strategies and choices. You could even organize your analysis around the ideas presented in the article you
have selected to analyze and then focus on the strategies and choices used to convey those ideas. If you choose, you can interweave your evaluation of the article’s
rhetorical effectiveness throughout your analysis.
It is also appropriate to use your ending to make explicit your evaluation of the rhetorical effectiveness of the article in question. Other strategies useful for
ending this kind of essay include reiterating particular strengths (and/or weaknesses) of the essay or suggesting ways the essay might have been more effective.
Include an MLA citation of the article at the end of your essay as “Work Cited.” If you quote from the article you’re analyzing, be sure to cite the page number from
which the quote is taken.
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